Colorado

Monday Churn: Back to work

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Last week’s work week lasted a short four days and the weekend was – for many – a somber remembrance of the decade since Sept. 11, 2001.

So it’s back to a full week ahead of state education meetings and district school board gatherings. Agendas include a discussion of a new credit-card spending policy for Denver Public Schools board members, a look at the financial health of Jefferson County Public Schools and talk about new graduation guidelines at the State Board of Education.

Meanwhile, election season is gearing up in various districts. Tonight, candidates for the Douglas County school board will speak at a Highlands Ranch elementary school.  Eight candidates are vying for three seats in a community divided over vouchers and two tax increases on the Nov. 1 ballot. Learn more from this EdNews story, which includes links to candidate websites.

And communications staff in Adams 50 Westminster is putting together bios of the six candidates running for three board seats. You can learn more on the district’s elections webpage. A candidates forum is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 28. With only five board members in Westminster, the Nov. 1 election could mean a complete change in board direction for a district involved in one of the country’s most innovative reform efforts.

What’s on tap:

TODAY

Educational Success Task Force members meet from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Senate Committee Room 354 at the State Capitol. The agenda includes a discussion of the Colorado Basic Literacy Act and a presentation from Adams 50 Westminster on its standards-based learning reform. Committee website and agenda.

Denver Public Schools board members meet for their regular work session preceding Thursday’s formal board meeting. A closed-door executive session is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. before the public portion kicks off at 4:30 p.m. On tonight’s agenda – an update on the number of schools with teachers visiting families at home. It’s at the usual place, 900 Grant St. Agenda.

Douglas County school board candidates forum begins at 6:30 p.m. at Eldorado Elementary, 1305 Timbervale Trail, in Highlands Ranch. School website.

Cherry Creek School District board members meet at 7 p.m. at 5416 S. Riviera Way in Aurora. No agenda posted but here’s the district website.

TUESDAY

Westminster District 50 school board members meet at 7 p.m. at Westminster High School. Agenda items include a briefing on Colorado’s new academic standards and discussion of an upcoming school board candidates forum.  Agenda.

WEDNESDAY

State Board of Education members meet at 9 a.m. at the Colorado Department of Education. Agenda items include a discussion of new state graduation guidelines, which must be approved by December. Agenda.

THURSDAY

Denver Public Schools board members meet at 5 p.m. at 900 Grant St. for their regular monthly meeting. Agenda items include the evaluation of Superintendent Tom Boasberg and a discussion of a proposed policy on credit-card spending by board members, following recent revelations that two members were over their $5,000 annual limits. Public comment is scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Agenda.

Jefferson County school board members meet at 5 p.m. at district headquarters, 1829 Denver West Drive in Golden for a work session. Agenda items include a discussion of the district’s fourth quarter financial report and a presentation from the Strategic and Sustainable Change Task Force, a partnership between the district and its teachers union looking at changes related to the new state educator effectiveness law and compensation. Read the task force agreement and see the night’s agenda.

SATURDAY

Aurora Public Schools hosts its third “Educating a Rainbow of Children” conference. It runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Vista Peak Preparatory School, 24500 E. Sixth Ave. in Aurora. It’s open to staff, students, parents and community members. Learn more here about registration and costs.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”